Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ending and beginning

After a fun party!

Swing batter swing!

I couldn't breathe!

Jeffery and I.




Saying some words.

Carmen and Carmen.

Watching my section sing.

Bryan giving me a card.

Yuri and I.

Carolina and I at school.

The pinatas that only cost 4 dollars each!

Fernando and Imnovis doing a little activity the last day of class.

I can honestly say I have not experienced as much change in the past two weeks as I have in my whole life. I knew life moved quickly, but whoa! It is hard to imagine that just a little over a week ago I was saying goodbye to the kids and Nicaragua, I was riding on a really hot bus and that once again all my stuff that I needed to live on what packed up in a large duffle bag. After a best described bittersweet day at NPH, we took the journey home, which was an adventure in and of itself and now Ryan and I are back in the U.S.A. and starting, not over again, but starting anew in more ways than a change of location.

The last word

Living at the volunteer house has never been a cakewalk and that living and working with the same people is not always the best combination. Well, this week I was again reminded of these things through the lack of respect and professionalism that is continually shown amongst the veteran volunteers. Some volunteers returned from vacation and as we were leaving new ones were coming in. All in all, after some last minute decisions and again poor communication where some of my students were affected, I was very happy to leave that crappy house and the dynamic of personalities that have formed inside. Saying goodbye to the kids, however, was a different story.

Our piñata party was a huge success, but the limbo element was sort of lost in the shuffle when someone broke the limbo stick to use as the batting tool for the candy-filled creatures. Oh well! The kids had a ton of fun, but before our celebration, the kids had a surprise of their own. Each section, about 8/10 kids, had a special presentation/goodbye for Ryan, Carmen and I. We heard songs, poems, received drawings and it was hard to keep myself together when my section of boys said that they loved me and were going to miss me. It was unexpected and hurt your heart sweet. I also received some very touching notes from the kids I have formed close relationships with. When I read them now I cannot help from becoming dehydrated ☺. I have been spoiled with so many hugs, “I love yous,” and “I will miss yous.” The whirlwind of leaving left me with some feelings of incompleteness the next day when I realized there were some kids I didn’t get to hug again or tell them how special they were to me. The entire process of leaving NPH after seven months hit me the hardest as we were on the bus in Costa Rica heading to the airport in San Jose. I put my sunglasses on to hide my red gringa eyes and said goodbye to beautiful Central America and made a promise never to forget the kids and how wonderful they are.

Illinois , Iowa and I

All things wonderful happen in the states that begin with the letter I. The past week I spent getting caught up with my parents in Rockford, IL and used to the first world. It honestly felt strange that I was not in the U.S. just to visit and had to remind myself that I was indeed not heading back to Nicaragua. Unlimited warm showers, driving by myself, my dad’s coffee, pre-inspected meat, seeing good friends, using fast internet, going barefoot, my mother’s comfortable bedroom chair, things being clean, using makeup, all is somewhat new and renewed. As I drove to Iowa to visit some friends and see Ryan at his new job I found myself thinking that the Midwest is really one of the best places to live in the world. The drive through Galena, IL and looking at the rolling farmland made me recall a friend who called the area a fairyland instead.
Being back, however, has some changes that I didn’t expect. Over the past 7 months I had gotten very used to the constant affection that the kids at NPH displayed. Every time I was around the kids I was guaranteed a hug, a how are you, and it usually happened more than once in a 15 minute period. I realized that I miss that ever-present physical response from them. Us Middle Americans are not so quick to throw a hug at someone or to love a stranger without some proof or history that they deserve it. It sounds sort of silly, but I miss all of their hugs! Using Spanish is also something I miss dearly. I have stumbled upon myself using phrases that only Nicaraguans use in response to frustration or excitement. I have concluded too that I need to be more proactive in keeping the language fresh in my mind when there aren’t 100 kids to practice with daily.
In the time I was away from this country, I learned that where I come from is indeed a rich, vibrant, and growing culture, just like Nicaragua is. Prior, I knew that there were traditions and things only people from my hometown might understand, but I never gave it the credit it deserved. It is ironic how I had to spend time in a foreign culture to appreciate my own. I feel at home now, as I always have, but I guess I love it more. Do I wish Americans would slow down and work to live rather than the opposite? Yes. Do I think that kids here are spoiled rotten and woosies? Yes. Do I miss the simplicity and the beauty of the Island? Of course. Do I believe that the Nicaraguan people are beautiful and that their level of poverty is grave? Yes. Do I want to live anywhere else for awhile besides the U.S.A.? No. Will I live my life differently here after being there? I hope so.

Movin’ on up

All in all it is good to be back and it is time to start making some big girl decisions. The first of which happened a little sooner than I expected. The big news that has happened besides some reverse culture shock and the Midwest heat is that Ryan and I are engaged! I am thrilled and he asked me in the classroom we met in at the University of Iowa. It was very special and my parents and friends were in on it too. It was a very fun surprise, as I knew it would happen eventually and I knew my answer already, but I did not think it was going to be a week after coming home. Turns out life moves faster and slower than you do sometimes, but I am ready for the next chapter of “la vida” and I have a great person to write it with.
Enjoy the last of the photos and thank you so much for reading my blog “La vida Nica”. Mucho amor.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Penultima week

Washing clothes for the last time over concrete.

Noticing crazy news about the U.S.

Eating dinner.

Hanging out.

Sunset on the Island.

Flowers at the monastery.

Walking down to the lake.

Alvaro and I enjoying a mango.

Scarlet making her drawing.

Playing a game at the self-esteem workshop.

Aura, the psychologist, talking to everyone.

Carmen and Leyla.

Playing in the park.

Printmaking fun!

***** I know I am posting this a bit belated, but internet has been a big issue lately. Along with virus infested USB sticks. I wrote this last week and posting it now. Thanks for understanding.*********

Whoa! Things are wrapping up quickly here; it has been a surreal past couple of days. The knowledge of my soon departure, the last weekend at a beach for quite a while, my last hugs from the kids is a lot, but oddly I am not overwhelmed. I find it quite ironic that upon coming here I was terrified, speechless almost. Now, I am comfortable and quite embarrassed at my freak out moments of the past. Well, now is not the time to reflect on that. The past days I have been organizing and coordinating my little classroom for Marijke, writing little notes of appreciation, and preparing for a piñata party on Thursday.

Self-love workshop

Now I know when my brothers read this they will roll their eyes, but last week Carmen, Angela, Aura (the psychologist), and I organized a little self-esteem workshop for the older girls on Friday because there was no school. From the mouths of 15-18 year olds it is not uncommon to find a girl who is not so excited about the way they look, how they are often confused and emotional, and tend to build their world around pleasing other people. Here at NPH is it no anomaly to encounter such qualities. So, we had a question/answer session with the nurse and the psychologist. We played some fun get-together games, and in the end we drank some pop and took some pictures to celebrate how awesome they all are. An overall success as the girls seemed very content and most expressed thanks to have time away from the little girls and talk about some supposed taboo topics.

Printmaking with pequeños

The past couple of weeks I have been motivated to finally make some art. In my burst of artistic impulse I thought why not teach some of my students? So, little by little over the past week I have been showing off how to make a viscosity print. The kids LOVE the hand roller used to roll out the ink. I have been very excited about the results and to see a kid’s face when you pull up the print is awesome. Every time they grow a smile. I have some wonderful volcano and bird prints now and I plan to use them somehow when I get home in some way.

Adios San Juan del Sur

For our last descanso/break Ryan and I again went to San Juan del Sur. It is really the easiest place to like here in Nicaragua for me. A tranquil town, cheap prices and not much not to like is always in order. We splurged on dinner one night in the lovely restaurant, El Colibrí, complete with a glass of wine and swordfish with lemon butter and capers. We reflected on how fast and slow time has went and how thankful we were to be there and going home. I only wish we knew about it before. We went to the beach, Playa Maderas, soaked in some sun, and were able to hang out with Katerine and Marie too. We especially had fun teaching some of our European counterparts how to play beer pong!

We did experience, unfortunately, our first robbery at the beach. Ryan, has affectionately earned the nickname Mr. Security from me. He is diligent and thoughtful in taking care of all the valuables we bring. It is not that I am not; it is just he can be a little overboard. Well, at the quiet beach we let our guard down. It all started when Ryan went into the water for a bit while I read my book. He was there for quite some time. He came out exhausted from the very strong currents and washing machine waves. Later we decided to order some food from the nearby stand. All of a sudden though, when Ryan went to pay he realized that the 50$ worth of cordobas he had “securely” in his bathing suit pocket was gone! Now something about Nicaraguan money that is unique is that it is plastic. You can get it wet, fold it a thousand times and its brand new. So, Ryan went into the water with the moolah and well, in the end we got snookered by Old Man Sea as he was able to wrestle that money from his back pocket. Ryan then spent half an hour searching the beach and I held back the laughter at the irony of the situation. We have spent many traveling hours avoiding losing money and here we are just throwing it in the ocean. Luckily, I had some cash to cover us so we didn’t have to stay at the beach forever.

Anyway, we left San Juan after a wonderful weekend and I hope I have the opportunity to visit again.

Piñata preparation

On Thursday Carmen, who is leaving a couple of days after us, Ryan and I are organizing a little fiesta with piñatas and a grand game of limbo for all the kids as sort of a celebration and thanks for letting us be in their home. I have the piñatas stored in my room and every time I enter I see a red dog, a chicken, a pig and some sort of unidentified animal and it scares me before I turn the lights on. We bought the candy to stuff them and it should be quite fun. I am sure we will get some good pictures.

Moving right along

I have also been making a little manual and writing reports for the new teacher. I hope they help her transition a bit better than I did. It has been interesting and good to realize how many details and nuances I feel completed to share with her about the kids, NPH, and how to make things work. It has felt good to feel like I accomplished something and putting it on paper. I will continue to organized and attempt to get things compact as I can for the journey home. It is quite amazing what one accumulates in a short time. I plan on writing a couple of more entries once I am in the US with many pictures. Until then, amor y abrazos.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Less is more

Watching Karate Kid.

Dishing out gallopinto, salad and cheese.

The finished product of cake. I have never seen a cake that big with my name on it!

Tio Julio at the stove.

Receiving cards.

Goofing off.
Handing out gifts.

All together.

Playa Hermosa.

Cool rocks.

Tio Juan Pablo, his son Pablo Issac, his brother in law Duglas...and Ryan.


Nadine and Verena at Juan Pablos.

Alex and I.

Karina and I.
Tia Maria Jose with Bryan and Roberto.

Bryan and I.

The Director, Yader, dancing with the kids.

Cake out of the oven.

Marlon being tranquilo, tranquilo.

Batters up!


Putting it in the oven.

Volunteer dinner complete with fish!

Eduardo making a print.

My buddy Bryan.

Traffic jam on the way to Sacramento.

The Church in Sacramento.

Marbely and I.

Brother and sister, Bayardo and Reyna.

Santa Ana.

Kerry with his art.


Roberto was very proud.




Juan Ramon.


Brothers Alex and Juan Ramon.

Art workshop!

Art workshops, organizing, writing final reports, movie watching and a special activity with my section filled up the past 10 days or so. I have learned a couple of things, which have been valuable. For example, to teach an art class, smaller is way better. Also, I finally feel like my Spanish is at a level at which it has not been before, and I have once again been reminded that all the little details that one can get wrapped up in aren’t that big of a deal.

Copy Machine Magic

I have much more control at the school than people have given me credit for. Why you may ask? Well, I have access to the only working copy machine on the entire property and probably this part of the Island. This happened by a stroke of God inspired events in which my little classroom is right next to the copy machine room. Teachers, the administration, other volunteers always seem to need copies, makes sense to me. What does that mean? That means I have learned its quirks and I have been called upon at 8 p.m. to make emergency copies. Anyway… I decided to use some of the magic a copy machine makes in a little art lesson for the little kids. They all gathered 5 or so leaves that they liked, we put them on the copy machine bed, and whalah! out came a cool composition that we then colored and was just theirs. We talked about the shape of leaves, how you can make interesting shapes with the leaves and sometimes when you add color to black and white it can make it the picture more interesting. It was a success, mainly because there were 8 boys rather than 35 kids. The copy machine also fascinated them all. The only drawback has been now that they have seen it in action, every little thing they find the urchins want to make a copy of it to see what it looks like. I can’t blame them.

Accompanying Santa Ana

Apparently, every year an image/statue of Santa Ana, the grandmother of Jesus, makes her way around the Island. Every Catholic Church receives the image, has a special mass, and then passes it along to the next church. At the end of her voyage there is a fiesta in her honor in Moyogalpa, the main port town, and that basically means a day off of work and school for the Island entire. No complaints here. This past week, it was NPH’s turn to receive and pass. The pass part though, was quite the hike. Sacramento, the next community, is very close, but its church is on the lake. So all the kids and everybody from Sacramento took the main road then the dirt road to Sacramento to accompany the image. It was very nice and I had a nice chat with my friend Marbely, but the walk was at least 3 miles round trip, Nicaraguan pace, so it took about 3 hours. All the kids were pooped, but it was a cool night. The little church at Sacramento is precious to say the least as well.

Spanish Invasion

Obviously, Nicaragua has a deep history with Spain. Well, it continues here at NPH. A family from Spain has been here for about 2 months or so and is implementing a pretty cool project in which they are teaching the kids to grow their own plot of tomatoes and cucumbers. Then the kids are taught how to sell them and they receive the profits. Thumbs up on my end. The personalities, however, that have come to light have been problematic. I am being purposefully vague, but with the good comes the bad and there have been many meetings, strong discussions, and in my opinion, just plain wrong decisions. Simply said, their presence has been quite the hype. My hope is that things calm down and in the end people remember that the kids are what are most important.

New Volunteers

The two new volunteers that have come in the past three weeks are very cool. Ryan and I have been wondering why they were not here before. Oh well. Marie, from Bordeaux, France has her masters in Wine Making and is very disappointed with the lack of wine selection here in Nicaragua. She’s here to perfect her Spanish so she can work anywhere that needs a French, English, or Spanish speaking wine maker. Pretty awesome. Because her English is very competent she has agreed to take over Ryan’s English classes, which is wonderful. Angie, from Switzerland, is the new nurse here, and is very welcoming and warm. The kids have already taken a huge liking to her. A new and third volunteer, Marilke, from Holland is coming at the end of the week to take over Carmen and my position. Lots of change here at the volunteer house.

Grandes I – Operation Special Activity

As sort of a Goodbye, Birthday, early Christmas party for everybody in my section we had a special activity on Sunday. We made a cake together, watched the new Karate Kid with Jackie Chan (pretty awesome movie) ate special food, and exchanged words of thanks and love. Making the cake was a gas. I had to make up my own recipe sort of on the spot because the kitchen ran out of butter, so we used oil instead and maybe too many eggs, but in the end it was good. The boys, though, had more fun cleaning than making due to the batter eating. In the afternoon we got the key to the nice visitor house called Casa Azul, where there is a full kitchen and comfy chairs to watch a movie. So I took advantage, and Tio Julio and I made gallopinto with salad, cheese, and avocado with pop too, of course. Later they gave me cards that I had to hold back the tears when I read and I gave them each their little gift of remembrance from me. It was very sweet and I was truly blessed with a lovely group of boys who in the past week have started calling me Tia (Aunt) Megan.

Still more

Although I know that the next 2 weeks are going to fly by I am determined to get everything I want in. Carmen, Angela and I have a little self-esteem workshop with the older girls at the end of this week. A piñata party is in order for two weeks and maybe some limbo too. I also have had the chance to make a couple of prints as a souvenir for myself. Every moment has a bitter sweetness that is expected with these kids and the relationships that have been formed. Ryan and I both have been sleeping like crap as we keep thinking about all the loose ends here and at home. We both, however, are excited for new chapters and memories from this one.